The most fulfilling vacations are those that are both enjoyable and affordable. Last month, as part of its annual Best in Travel series, travel guide publisher Lonely Planet released a list of the top 10 value destinations for 2020. According to the list, no destination offers travelers more bang for their buck than the southernmost province of Indonesia, East Nusa Tenggara.
Located within the Lesser Sunda Islands, East Nusa Tenggara is a few islands east of Bali, Indonesia’s more famous island destination. Made up of more than 500 islands, the province is home to gorgeous beaches and world-class diving, particularly on Komodo Island and the Alor Archipelago.
Komodo Island is already a well-known destination, although visitors now must pay $1,000 to enroll in a membership program in order to enjoy its pink sand beaches and see its famous “dragons,” the rest of the area is far more affordable with equally impressive sights. Mount Mutis is the highest point in East Nusa Tenggara and a beautiful spot for hiking or bird-watching on the island of Timor. Vacationers can also see Kelimutu, an active volcano with impressive crater lakes on the island of Flores.
Throughout the rest of the region, visitors will find relatively untouched nature, uncrowded beaches, night markets with local street food and traditional crafts and textiles at trade markets during the day.
Each village in East Nusa Tenggara also has its own set of customs and traditions, and staying at a hotel in one of them is a great way to get to know the locals and save on accommodations, which can range from $30-$50 a night for mid-level hotels, or about $200 at more high-end resorts. Compare that to the $100-$300 a night visitors spend at mid-level hotels in nearby Bali, and the savings add up quickly just by flying a couple islands to the east.
Because the area is not as popular among travelers (yet), booking a flight is about average for the region (approximately $2,000-$3,000 per ticket from the eastern United States), although booking through a travel agent or local travel guide is advised to help you better navigate this undiscovered wonder.